The 6-foot-9, 246-pounder sure has had a senior season worthy of such an honor.
He is the only player in the Big East to be averaging a double-double in points and rebounds (it’s worth nothing that Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng just misses it with 9.9 points and 10.0 rebounds).
Cooley heads into the regular-season finale today at Louisville averaging 13.8 points and a league-leading 10.7 rebounds. Not bad for a three-star player coming out of high school who didn’t hold scholarship offers from any of the perennial powerhouses would you say?
When Cooley, who is also second in the conference in field goal percentage (59.0), plays well, the Fighting Irish can beat a lot of teams.
To Cooley’s credit, you won’t find a player that has worked harder to better his game. For his efforts, he was awarded the 2011-12 Big East Most Improved Player Award en route to second-team all-league honors.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey admits sometimes Cooley’s talents are taken for granted. However, the Fighting Irish boss knows full well of his value.
“I think he’s the best rebounder in college basketball,” Brey said. “I firmly believe that.
“I’m always mindful when we’re watching film or talking to our team to really make everybody understand and appreciate what this guy gives us and the physicality that he deals with night in and night out.”
No doubt Cooley feels like a pinball on most occasions getting battered and bruised while battling in the paint, but this is a veteran who more than holds his own and can single-handily change the complexion of a game with his tenacity and efficiency in the low post.
Cooley is far from a one-man show, although come next week when the postseason starts, the Fighting Irish would be wise to get on the back of their big man and ride him as far as he’ll take them.
Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.